Olimje Castle is a 16th-century castle and currently a Franciscan monastery. The predecessor of the current castle occupied the site since c. 1000, and first belonged to the counts von Peilestein, including Hemma of Gurk, an 11th-century saint and member of the family.
Around 1550, a Count Tattenbach rebuilt the castle in renaissance style, at the same time adding a defensive ditch to guard against Turkish incursions.
In 1658 the castle was bought by Baron Ivan Zakmardy of Zagreb, who began converting it into a monastery, and in 1663 donated it to brothers of the Pauline order from Lepoglava, Croatia. Between 1665 and 1675, they completed the conversion and added a handsome baroque church, whose altar of the Assumption of Mary is considered one of the finest baroque altars in Slovenia. In 1740, the monk Ivan Ranger painted the entire presbytery, and a side chapel was built and decorated.
The Paulines also established a pharmacy, among the oldest in Europe; the monastery contains a fresco honoring Paracelsus. The anticlerical reforms of Joseph II forced the monks out, as their activities did not include running a school or other charitable institution, and Olimje was not a parish, which it became in 1785. The former monastery was bought by the noble house of Attems in 1805; due to high taxes, the new owners could however not afford the upkeep of the entire structure, and had the north and west wings torn down.
The castle was nationalized after World War II. In 1974, a major earthquake badly damaged it; soon afterward it was thoroughly renovated with the assistance of national, municipal, and parish funds. The sanctuary and parish were given to the Conventual Franciscans in 1990. On the 15th of August, 1999, they revived the monastery after 217 years. Today they care for both pilgrims and the tourists visiting the historic castle and pharmacy. Due to public interest, they have also established a herbal apothecary.References:
The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.
The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick. The tower was likely inhabited by the principal family or clan of the area but also served as a last resort for the village in case of an attack.
The broch continued to be inhabited while it began to collapse and the original structures were altered. The cistern was filled in and the interior was repartitioned. The ruin visible today reflects this secondary phase of the broch's use.
The site is surrounded by three ditches cut out of the rock with stone ramparts, encircling an area of around 45 metres diameter. The remains of numerous small stone dwellings with small yards and sheds can be found between the inner ditch and the tower. These were built after the tower, but were a part of the settlement's initial conception. A 'main street' connects the outer entrance to the broch. The settlement is the best-preserved of all broch villages.
Pieces of a Roman amphora dating to before 60 AD were found here, lending weight to the record that a 'King of Orkney' submitted to Emperor Claudius at Colchester in 43 AD.
At some point after 100 AD the broch was abandoned and the ditches filled in. It is thought that settlement at the broch continued into the 5th century AD, the period known as Pictish times. By that time the broch was not used anymore and some of its stones were reused to build smaller dwellings on top of the earlier buildings. Until about the 8th century, the site was just a single farmstead.
In the 9th century, a Norse woman was buried at the site in a stone-lined grave with two bronze brooches and a sickle and knife made from iron. Other finds suggest that Norse men were buried here too.